I am ever and still caught in the breeze of a smile I once saw. The smile of a certain young monk.
For new readers, we are Piedmont Pine Coffins. We help families do more affordable funerals, naturally. In our work and in our life, we take some inspiration from monks and monasteries down through the ages.
Though the photo at left is not the exact one I have in mind, the smiles there of Thomas Merton’s students are good stand-ins for the particular one I remember from a Trappist brochure: 1950s, a novice monk working in a kitchen or woodshop. It is cold and he is wearing a rough denim chore coat, possibly made in-house. His glasses are black and thick-rimmed. “Birth-control” glasses. His smile is fluorescent and says, “I am happy here doing what I am doing. Everything I need is here in this place and under this roof.”
Hoist one sail
Quitting all other headings, so to speak, that young monk from the luminous photo of my memory has decided to hoist one sail, this sail only, and it makes him happy. The one decision to rule all others. The ring of power that binds the rest.
No surprise, then, that for Piedmont Pine Coffins I took on a habit and made it denim. I wear it every day. A collared tan work shirt with our pine tree logo, plus, depending on the weather, denim overalls or shorts. Come winter I’ll be needing a denim chore coat.
I could complain. In the heat, the shorts bind over the knees. The shirts are poly blends and chafe more than cotton. The overalls, at events off the farm, give a limited look. It’s overalls for the library and overalls for weddings.
But there’s freedom, too, in being limited. The liberty of limitation. The relief of just having to follow the rule without always deciding on how to best self-present. For that I’m grateful.
You could say that Piedmont Pine Coffins is a devotional homage to that monk’s smile. I’m pulling together all the threads, weaving them to a canvas, and with it hoisting my sail. That it might pull me onward and upward like a kite!
Good people, what icon changed your life, and what sail would it have you hoist?